We hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc in September 2019, camping all the way. We were a little nervous about the whole thing, in particular, whether we would be able to find a place to pitch our tent each night. There wasn’t much information available online, and it quite frankly seemed a logistical nightmare. Of course, we pushed our fears aside, went ahead, and camped the TMB anyway! And we had an AMAZING trip. We wouldn’t have done it any other way. Now we want to share all the stuff we wish we had known beforehand, so you can have much more hassle-free experience out on the trail!
To avoid making these posts way too long, we have split up all our Tour du Mont Blanc content into a few separate posts. This one is all about finding campsites along the route, but it doesn’t go into detail about much else.
So far, we have also written separate articles on the following topics:
Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc in September: Our Personal Trip Report: Read this post to get a better overview of the route as well as what you can expect from the trek on a day-to-day basis.
TMB – Your Questions Answered: This is an easily digestible post in a Q&A format, to help you quickly get answers to our most frequently asked questions. Here you’ll find a little bit about the weather, water availability, data roaming, etc.
What to See & Do in Chamonix: Read this guide to find out what you can spend time on in Chamonix after your trek. Spoiler-alert, there’s A LOT of stuff to see and do!
Paragliding from 3.700 meters at Aiguille du Midi: Here you get the full travel story about our favorite experience in Chamonix.
During our trek, we filmed a little video. We believe it captures the atmosphere of the trek quite accurately, and we suggest you check it out to get a feel for what you can expect.
Pros and cons of camping on the TMB trek
These are the most important reasons for why you might/might not want to camp on the TMB trek instead of sleeping in huts and refugios. Choosing which approach to take is an important decision and should not be taken lightly. Let’s break it up for you:
Map of the TMB
Below we have mapped out an overview of the route, with pins in the most important towns. After that, we will go through the campsite possibilities in each location, day-by-day. You should know, there is not a whole lot of those options on each stage. Just look at this in a positive light: It means you’ll have fewer decisions to make!
This guide is split up per day, or TMB stage if you like, as determined by the most popular guidebook of the trail: the Cicerone. By the way, we recommend you get that guidebook, as it offers an excellent overview of each stage. However, it won’t give you any details whatsoever about camping. That’s where this post comes into the picture!
- Pre-stage: Arriving in Chamonix
- Stage 1: Chamonix to Les Contamines
- Stage 2: Les Contamines to Les Chapieux
- Stage 3+4: Les Chapieux to Courmayeur
- Rest day in Courmayeur
- Stage 5: Courmayeur towards Rifugio Bonatti
- Stage 6: Rifugio Bonatti to La Fouly
- Stage 7: La Fouly – Champex
- Stage 8: Champex to Trient or Col de la Forclaz
- Stage 9: Col de la Forclaz to Tre-le-Champ
- Stage 10: Tre-le-Champ to La Flegere or Chamonix
TMB Pre-stage: Arriving in Chamonix
You should arrive in Chamonix the day before your hike. We recommend you spend some extra time in this cozy little town but suggest you wait until after the hike. It’s better to get started on the trail in case you walk slower than expected, get injured, or hit some nasty weather. Stuff can happen, and it’s good to include a few buffer days here before your flight home. Luckily, if you have time to kill, there are plenty of exciting things to see & do in Chamonix!
Now, this might sound odd in a guide about camping on the TMB, but we actually suggest you book a hotel or guest house for your first night. There’s a straightforward reason for that, namely luggage. To avoid paying extortionate prices for luggage storage, simply book a cheap room at both ends of your hike (one night before heading out, and one night as you return). This was vital for us, as we came directly from another trip and was carrying a lot of non-hiking related gear. It didn’t sound like much fun to carry two 23 kg backpacks around, so we had to ditch a bunch of stuff.
We booked a hotel for the first and the last night of our trip, and the total cost of that actually turned out to be slightly cheaper than paying just for luggage storage! Having a real bed to sleep in after the long 2-week hike was a huge added bonus. Just make sure to contact the property beforehand to make sure they’ll keep your stuff for a few weeks. There are plenty of options in town. Personally, we stayed at La Chaumière Mountain Lodge, which offered an excellent no-frills experience.
Of course, if you don’t need to store any luggage, then this tip doesn’t make any sense to you. In that case, here are the campsites we suggest in Chamonix:
Camping Les Arolles (Chamonix)
We slept here a few nights by the end of the hike as we were staying for longer in Chamonix and didn’t want to pay for a hotel for the whole duration. It was a small campsite, and it was packed to the brim. However, it had fine facilities and got the job done. There was significant road noise from the highway close by, so if you are a light sleeper, you might want to consider one of the alternatives below.
Camping Ile des Barrats (Chamonix)
We haven’t been ourselves, but we’ve had this campsite recommended to us by several people. We chose Camping Les Arolles instead because it was VERY close to the Aiguille du Midi Cable Car, and we knew we had to get there early for our paragliding flight.
Camping Bellevue (Les Houches)
If you want to be really, really close to the TMB trailhead, consider this campsite in Les Houches. We didn’t choose it because we preferred to be located in the bigger town of Chamonix.
Campsites on TMB Stage 1: Chamonix to Les Contamines
The stage officially starts in Les Houches about a 10-minute bus ride outside of Chamonix.
Most people end up in Les Contamines, sleeping in a hotel. Unfortunately, we hardcore tenters must walk a bit further.
Camping le Pontet
This campsite was located about 45 minutes after Les Contamines. It’s right on the trail and would be a good place to stop if you are feeling tired or if it’s late in the day. However, if you have the time and energy for it, we suggest you press on. You should, however, be warned that the entire next section towards the other campsites runs steeply uphill and is quite strenuous.
Free Camping near Refuge de Nant Borrant
Around 1.5 hours after Les Contamines, you will pass by a lodge called Refuge de Nant Borrant. There you will see a sign pointing you towards a campsite 10 minutes up the trail. A good option here could be to stop for dinner in the refuge and walk the final 10 minutes after your meal. We regretted not doing that. As promised, about 10 minutes after the lodge, you find a camp spot. It’s completely free and includes a public toilet. There was only one other person there when we passed, taking a small bath in the nearby river. We didn’t stop here either, though.
Free Camping at Refuge de la Balme
Instead, we pushed on to Refuge de la Balme, located around 2- 2.5 hours after Les Contamines. Here we were hoping to get a hot meal. We really needed it since we had a long day and it was pouring down. Unfortunately, they couldn’t offer us any. It turns out that when it’s raining, there’s limited inside seating, and it’s all reserved to guests of the refuge. That’s one of the negatives of camping on the TMB, and on this particular day, this hit us quite hard. The campsite itself was fine, with a (basic) public toilet and what we could imagine are good views in clear weather.
Campsites on TMB Stage 2: Les Contamines to Les Chapeiux (via Col de Bonhomme)
You don’t have to put much effort into considering this day’s campsite. There is only one. You can camp for free at the tourist office of Les Chapieux. It’s impossible to miss it. Look for the massive grass field in the middle of the town, and although we have heard it can be crowded during the summer with lots of RVs and campervans, it was almost empty in start-September. There is a free public toilet as well, which seemed clean enough. There’s also a refuge nearby (Auberge de la Nova), which could serve you some dinner and a small shop selling sandwiches, cold cuts, and some refreshing local beer.
Campsites on TMB Stage 3+4: Les Chapieux to Val Veny/Courmayeur (via Refugio Elisabetta)
The logistics of stage 3 and 4 are not exactly great for campers. On stage 3, you are crossing the border from France into Italy. Most people will stop near the top of the mountain pass at Refugio Elisabetta or sleep down in the valley at Cabane du Combal. Unfortunately, there are no campsites available. You still have a few different possibilities:
- Ditch your tent and book a bed in either Rifugio Elisabetta or Cabane du Combal.
- Illegal wild camping anywhere.
- Go straight to Val Veny right outside of Courmayeur, skipping stage 4.
- Go straight to Val Veny, but head back in the same direction the next day to pick up the trail where you left it.
There are several stages across the TMB where there are no obvious campsites along the route. In those cases, you can always choose to book a room in the guesthouses. That’s entirely up to you. Another thing you can generally do is to wild camp. Many people are doing it, and if you are subtle enough, we don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t get away with it just fine. Towards the end of this post, we’ll talk a little more about that.
Personally, we stuck with option 3) above, thereby skipping a whole stage of the TMB. The weather forecast for the following day was outright horrible, so we judged that we wouldn’t be missing out on much. We had already walked for days in poor weather and with little visibility, and we definitely didn’t mind skipping another one of those. However, if it’s important to you to complete the entire length of the TMB and/or if the weather is clear, you can always just backtrack your steps from the campsite in Val Veny and catch the trail back where you left it (option 4).
To get down to the campsites in Val Veny, you walk past Lac Combal, and instead of turning right off the gravel road on the small uphill path (marked TMB), you stay on the main road. Continuing straight, soon after, you’ll cross over the river on a small bridge, and the gravel road transitions into a proper tarmac road. Follow that road for about 45 minutes to an hour downhill until you reach La Visaille. You can’t miss it, the road only leads to one place. Right at the entrance to the town, you’ll see a bus stop. Grab a bus from there towards Courmayeur. Remember to check the bus schedule beforehand – we only just about made the final bus at around 6 pm. The website of Savda, the local bus company, is not the best, but we did manage to find the timings there eventually. We won’t list them here as they typically change annually and according to the season.
Now, there aren’t actually any campsites in Courmayeur. Instead, you need to stay a bit outside of town, in an area known as Val Veny. The bus passes right by here, and you can just show the driver the name of your chosen campsite. He’ll drop you off in the right place. We found there to be 3 good choices:
We spent one night at HOBO Camping. Then they closed for the season. This was around mid-September. The campsite was fine, and we could get ample food and drinks there.
Once HOBO camping closed on us, we packed up and walked around 200 meters down the road to their immediate neighbor Camping Aiguille-Noire. Everything was fine there, as well. We had beer and pizza and couldn’t complain about anything.
Campsites for your rest day in Courmayeur
For your Courmayeur rest day, just stick to your chosen campsite above. The bus you took from La Visaille will drive you into town for just a few EUR, and we highly recommend jumping on that instead of walking. After all, this is supposed to be a rest day.
Campsites on TMB Stage 5: Courmayeur towards Rifugio Bonatti (sleeping in Val Ferret)
We hate to tell you this, but stage 5 is going to be another problematic day for you and your trusted tent. Again, there isn’t anywhere to camp on the main route, so you gotta choose whether you want to wild camp or stray from the trail a bit.
Regardless of what you choose, you will take the bus in the morning from Val Veny to Courmayeur for the start of the hike. You will walk towards Rifugio Bonatti up on a beautiful ridge, and here it looked to us like you might be able to find a good place to wild camp. Of course, as was also the case on stage 3, you could book a night in the rifugio. It’s supposedly a great place, with good food and an excellent view.
Your last option is to do like we did and grab the “escape road” down from the ridge. All along the trail, there are small paths leading down into the Val Ferret valley, and we just picked a random one of those. You can go as far as to Rifugio Bonatti and still find a path leading you down from the ridge within an hour or so. Once you are down, you will be able to walk alongside a tarmac road until you get to a campsite. There’s even the possibility of a bus.
Camping Grandes Jorasses
We stayed at Camping Grandes Jorasses. The pitch was in a cozy location in a small wooded area, but the ground was really hard, which made it a bit tricky to secure the tent. The campsite advertised that they had a restaurant, but in September it had already closed for the season. Luckily, we found another restaurant just a few hundred meters down the road. Although this campsite didn’t offer the best value for money, it got the job done.
This campsite was located a bit further up the valley, and thus a bit closer to Rifugio Bonatti. This is useful the following day as you need to get back up on the ridge and over the mountain pass. We can’t comment on anything else about it, though.
Campsites on TMB Stage 6: Rifugio Bonatti/Val Ferret to La Fouly
From the Val Ferret valley, you need to get back up on the ridge (probably the same way you came down). Then you cross from Italy into Switzerland before reaching La Fouly by the end of stage 6. We actually skipped this day entirely ourselves. If you are interested in reading more about that choice, you should check out our personal TMB trip report. Although we never made it La Fouly, we did the research, and there is only one campsite there. It’s called Camping des Glaciers, and we heard good things about it. It’s a dedicated TMB campground and should be easy to find.
Campsites on TMB Stage 7: La Fouly – Champex
La Fouly to Champex is supposedly the easiest day of the whole TMB. You’ll do quick work of it, and once you get to Champex, there are two campsites to choose from. There is one inside the city which is right on the main road. It’s called Camping Les Rocailles and is in a good location if you are following the standard TMB route. The reviews are not exactly stellar, but we don’t have any personal experiences to share because we stayed in the other one.
If you want to hike the TMB variant known as Fenetre d’Arpette, then you should head up to the refuge known as Relais d’Arpette. It’s located about 45 minutes to an hour from Champex, en route towards the Fenetre d’Arpette mountain pass.
The campsite at Relais d’Arpette is beautiful, and you can get a hot shower. It was even possible to get a full dinner, complete with cheese fondue and dessert. Choosing this place also made our next day a bit shorter, which was very helpful. It was a VERY tough day, nonetheless, and we can only imagine if it had been even longer.
We highly recommend picking this alternative route over the Relais d’Arpette pass. It is extremely strenuous but equally beautiful. Just note that the weather MUST be good for it to be safe.
Campsites on TMB Stage 8: Champex to Trient or Col de la Forclaz
As we crossed Fenetre d’Arpette, we came down on the other side and were faced with the choice of walking towards either Col de la Forclaz or Trient. Both would take around an hour. We ended up choosing the latter, going to Hotel du Col de la Forclaz, which has layered pitches right outside of the hotel. We later came to regret that decision, because we wasted more than an hour of walking. Instead, we should have turned off and gone down into the valley. There is a campsite down known as Camping Le Peuty, which saves you about an hour the next morning. That is a tough day, so we should definitely have done that. Camping Le Peuty, while more basic, is also a lot cheaper.
However, if you come from the original route, you will pass right by Col de la Forclaz, and it won’t be a detour for you. We still recommend you keep walking, though, because compared to the day you have just had, the next one is much tougher. Taking the pain now, and shaving off an hour tomorrow, is definitely worthwhile. At the same time, Hotel du Col de La Forclaz initially seemed nice, but their restaurant was ridiculously overpriced, some kids had a party on the parking lot all night, and the campsite was located right next to a big road. We would recommend you skip it in any case.
Campsites on TMB Stage 9: Col de la Forclaz to Tre-le-Champ or Argentiere (via Col de Balme)
On stage 9, you’ll be crossing from Switzerland back into France via Col de Balme.
Once you get back down from the mountain pass, you have two options on this day. The first campsite you will meet is right outside of Auberge la Boerne. Located in Tre-le-Champ this place was filled to the brim when we passed by it. We came late, admittedly, because we are slow hikers and had 2 beers and lunch in the sun at Col de Balme (wow, what a view from there). It is situated quite well, though, for the final stage of the tour. From there, you can also run down to the town of Argentiere in about 15 minutes where there are plenty of restaurants and a proper supermarket.
An alternative is to walk a further 30 minutes to reach Camping Glacier d’Argentiere. It’s located on the other side of Argentiere, and it’s not optimal for the next day’s hike. However, if you are planning to spend a rest day in or around Argentiere, it is worth considering. We actually slept here because we planned to skip the final day of the TMB, as well. Again it’s a long story, with a bit of injury, bad weather, and a closed cable car to blame.
A fun thing that happened during our night in Argentiere was that a sneaky fox stole food from our tent. Always remember not to have any trash or leftovers lying around!
By the way, even though we did it, we DO NOT recommend you skip the last day of the TMB. It’s supposedly one of the most beautiful on the entire trek!
TMB Stage 10: Tre-le-Champ to La Flegere or Chamonix (via Lac Blanc)
By the end of this day, you should have made it back down to Chamonix. If that’s a little too far, you may find a place to wild camp near Lac Blanc. You can also book a night at the Refuge la Flegere. From there, it is just a short cable car ride back into town.
Whether you make it into Chamonix on this day or the next: Congratulations, you have conquered the TMB! We are sure you’ll agree that it’s been a tough but rewarding experience. We dare say, you’ll remember it for ever.
That’s all we have to say about camping on the TMB. We really hope this post will help you better plan your trip! When you come back from the trek, or if you’ve already been, please throw a comment below with any campsites we might have forgotten or any personal recommendations. Feel free to ask any questions you might have as well. We are always happy to help!